As a woman, I feel comfortable telling people that I live with bipolar disorder and I often experience clinical depression.
However, I’ve heard from my male friends that they don’t have the same experience about opening up about being a man and having Depression. In my mind, this is a societal misperception and indicative of sexism. I believe that everyone with mental health issues has the right to feel their feelings in a candid way and speak about them openly. I was inspired to find out more about how men experience Depression.
I started with the staff of The Good Men Project for commentary on the subject.
Michael Kasdan, attorney and Director of Special Projects for The Good Men Project says society has a long way to go with regard to is perception of men living with Depression, “worth as a man in our society is often tied to sucking it up and providing, being tough and being self reliant.”
Kasdan first experienced Depression as an adult:
“I first realized I was experiencing depression when a family member (my sister) dragged me to see a therapist. I was absolutely paralyzed at work and at home, but at the age of 35 years old had never had a history of depression nor did I believe it was actually a thing. I kept telling myself I was just stressed at work.”
Kasdan knew that he needed to get help after he was working himself to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. This is a common theme amongst men with Depression. They often attribute their symptoms to stress or life circumstances.
Jean-François Claude had a similar experience to Kasdan. He writes on The Mighty about his doctor’s commentary:
“Mr. Claude, burnout is not a medical condition. You are going through a major depression, and I suspect you may have an underlying, unspecified mood disorder.” It was then that Claude accepted that he was living with Depression.
Jeremy McKeen, teacher and editor at The Good Men Project, realized early on that he was different from other boys his age in middle school. He remarks:
“Sometime during middle school I felt this weight and sadness that continued to grow, and it became part of who I am. As I developed I learned how to use it in the creative process through writing and music, but it grew as I grew.” McKeen was able to transform his depressed thoughts and feelings into art. I can relate to this, because I went to a performing arts high school. When I felt depressed, I could use my feelings in my acting roles.
Part of living with depression is knowing your limits. McKeen notes that he’s learned over time to set boundaries and utilize self-care:
“The older I get, the more I’m okay with saying that I just can’t do something right now or I need a mental break.”
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